A sloppy kiss from your dog is fine (some of us love it), but when it’s wet and smelly? That’s a different story. Aside from it being pretty gross, stinky dog breath can indicate an underlying dental concern, like plaque build-up or periodontal disease (which can cause tooth loss). Some dogs, like my rescues Boots and Hatchet, absolutely hate it when I touch their mouth, making it near impossible to brush their teeth every day. Thankfully, my dogs really love dental dog treats, which are basically edible toothbrushes that help them maintain good dental health.
With so many different types of dog dental treats on the market, it can be hard to know what to look for. To get to the bottom of it all, I put 10 dental dog treats to the ultimate breath test using the help of my diligent testers, Boots and Hatchet. With lots of deliberation, taste testing (them) and breath smelling (me), we were able to nail down the five best dental dog treats available on DoorDash that provide the best smelling dog breath.
Dental dog treats are crafted specifically to reach those hard to clean places in your dog’s mouth. Some are enriched with specific ingredients to help your pup’s breath smell nice and fresh.
How Do Dental Dog Treats Work?
“The primary benefit of dental chews for dogs is that they significantly improve oral health,” says veterinarian and co-founder of How To Pets Dr. Sara Ochoa. “They have a rough, uneven texture that helps scrape off plaque and tartar from the dog's teeth. As the dog chews, these stubborn food particles are gently removed, reducing the risk of cavities and gum disease.”
Dental dog treats are crafted specifically to reach those hard to clean places in your dog’s mouth. Some are enriched with specific ingredients to help your pup’s breath smell nice and fresh. “Many dog dental chews are coated with these [enzyme] proteins, which help to speed up the chemical reactions in your pup's mouth.” Dr. Ochoa says. “The enzymes masticated from the chews mix with the dog's saliva and work to break down the plaque, making it easier to remove through brushing or simply by the action of chewing.”
Other popular ingredients include chlorhexidine (an antiseptic used to reduce plaque and gingivitis), sodium hexametaphosphate, pumpkin, parsley, and essential oils.
Unlike traditional dog cookies or biscuits, which are crumbly and can be gobbled up in seconds, dental dog treats are designed to encourage your dog to chew more. “When dogs bite into these dental chews, their teeth sink into the treat, reaching areas of the mouth that regular brushing may not effectively reach,” Dr. Ochoa says. “The chewing action helps to scrub off the plaque and tartar build-up on the tooth's surface, essentially working like a mini toothbrush, thus promoting healthier gums and teeth.” The best dental dog treats should take a few minutes for your pups to devour.
Dr. Ochoa is quick to point out that these treats should not be used in place of regular brushing, but rather as a supplement. “It's essential to continue with a comprehensive oral health routine including brushing and regular checks at the vet," she says.
“When dogs bite into these dental chews, their teeth sink into the treat, reaching areas of the mouth that regular brushing may not effectively reach. The chewing action helps to scrub off the plaque and tartar build-up on the tooth's surface, essentially working like a mini toothbrush, thus promoting healthier gums and teeth."
Dental dog treats can be given once a day at most, but make sure to check the calories of each treat and adjust daily feeding if necessary. Each brand offers different size treats (small, medium, and large) that correspond with the size of your pooch. Both of my dogs are over 50 pounds, so they munched on large-sized treats. If you are still unsure about how many treats to give your dog or what size you should purchase, consult your vet.
Best Dental Dog Treats For Stinky Breath
To properly test these dental treats, Boots and Hatchet were subject to a sniff test, which meant I got down on my hands and knees every morning and night to check their breath. The best way I could describe their breath (pre-dog treats) was a combination of musty stale poop and dirt scents. Definitely not something you’d want to use as a candle scent. This test was conducted every day before giving them a dental treat. Let’s just say they really liked being my test subjects.
Milk-Bone Brushing Chews Fresh Breath Large Dental Dog Treats (24.2 oz)
Initial thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by the firm texture of these dog treats, as I was expecting them to be crumbly like original Milk-Bones. Fortified with calcium to help support strong bones and teeth, these bacon-flavored (and scented) treats feature patented nubs and ridges designed to help clean like bristles on a toothbrush. My dogs went absolutely crazy over these; it took around three minutes for them to gobble them up.
Breath after one hour: While these treats are flavored with bacon, both dogs’ breaths were surprisingly fresh with no meaty scent.
Breath at the end of the day: Fresh and clean.
Greenies Large Dental Dog Treats (Large)
Initial thoughts: These green toothbrush-shaped treats have a slight clean mint scent. The ridges of the toothbrush get in-between each tooth. These treats also agreed with Hatchet’s sensitive tummy (which can’t be said about some of the brands I didn’t mention). Hatchet ate his treat fast while Boots took around five minutes to finish hers.
Breath after one hour: Clean and fresh.
Breath at the end of the day: No scent, which to me means their teeth are nice and clean.
Ark Naturals Protection Plus Brushless Toothpaste 5-in-1 Large Dog Dental Chews (18 oz)
Initial thoughts: If you are looking for the cutest dental dog treats, these are for you (or, really, your dog). Each treat is crafted with a pink toothpaste center shaped into a heart and smells like clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. Unlike most of the other treats on the list, this one doesn’t feature ridges or bumps to brush away plaque. The brand claims its benefits come from edible toothpaste fortified with astaxanthin, which has been found to stop plaque and tartar from growing, by creating a protective barrier on the teeth. These treats were the softest of the group and were eaten in seconds.
Breath after one hour: Cinnamony and fresh.
Breath at the end of the day: Still a slight hint of cinnamon. Not bad — and better than their breath before the treat.
Authority Digestive Support Dental Dog Treats Pumpkin Large (Large)
Initial thoughts: Upon opening the bag I was surrounded by the scent of pumpkin and cinnamon, which I preferred to the scent of some of the others we tested. The large dog treats are about eight inches long and feature lots of bumps and ridges to get in between the teeth and gums. Along with the dental health benefits, this treat also claims to support digestive health with the natural fiber from the pumpkin. Boots and Hatchet happily chowed down, taking a good eight minutes to chew the entire treat.
Breath after one hour: Both dogs’ breath smelled like pumpkin and cinnamon.
Breath at the end of the day: The pumpkin and cinnamon scent disappeared — their breath didn’t smell like anything, which is a win in my book.
Merrick Fresh Kisses Double-Brush Large Dental Dog Treat Mint Breath Strips (7 ct)
Initial thoughts: How can you go wrong with a name like, “Fresh Kisses”? These dog treats are infused with real peppermint and are shaped like mini toothbrushes. They smell great, and my dogs really enjoyed them, taking a few minutes to eat the entire thing. Hatchet likes to hold his treats with his paws while he chews on them, so it looked like he was actually brushing his own teeth!
Breath after one hour: Still minty fresh.
Breath at the end of the day: A hint of mint was still lingering. They both had the freshest breath yet. The winner in my book.
Photographer: Paul Quitoriano
Stylist: Mary Rupp
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros